In the last two posts (here and here) on leaving church, I have discussed the problem behind many decisions to leave one church for another as well as when such decision is right. So with this post I want to think about a different angle which is, as the title states, why we absolutely ought to leave our churches to be the church.
Why should we leave our churches to be the church? Because for starters, we have totally confused the notion of church for far too long. Most of us grew up being taught to speak of the church as a location rather than a people. That has turned the church into some third-person entity that is located in a particular place and identified with a particular building. This “temple” mentality to church has created a situation where many can “go to church” and then leave their church behind as they go back to their life.
This temple approach to church worked in a christendom culture where the life of a community was centered around a church. Hence, the old traditional church in the center of town with its steeple making it the tallest building in town. But those days have past. The only way forward is for us to leave our church (assemblies) to be the church in our homes, our neighborhoods, our work spaces, our social spaces, etc…
When we read the Gospels and Acts, we get the language of discipleship, witnessing, and being sent. We are sent into our communities as disciples of Jesus Christ who bear witness to Jesus alone.
What the book of Acts makes clear is that our mission is lived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Not only is the power of the Holy Spirit promised (Acts 1:8) but it is the gift promised to all who repent and are baptized (Acts 2.38-39). All this means that we leave our church to be the church by relying on Holy Spirit power.
This point cannot be stressed enough. It is no secret that the United States is becoming more and more of a secular culture, following in the footsteps of her European ancestors. This has meant greater tolerance for non-Christian beliefs and values, including the passage of legislation to legitimize a variety of practices that are both foreign to traditional American values as well as historical Christianity.
As Christians, we are not likely to agree with many of the decisions. However, we cannot utilize the government as a vehicle for securing and preserving a Christian friendly culture. To do so is to rely on political power rather than the power of the Holy Spirit that comes being the gospel people. And why would we want rely on political power rather than Holy Spirit power? What are we more concerned with, preserving a “Christian friendly” culture or bearing the fruit that makes disciples of Jesus? Which power do we believe has the capability of making more communities of disciples, reliance on Holy Spirit power or reliance on political power? These are questions we must answer because cannot rely on both.
Having received the gift of the Holy Spirt, we are called to live as witnesses among our neighbors and friends by the power of the Spirit. If we are not sure what that looks like, read the rest of Acts. So here’s to gathering on with our fellow Christians as the church and then leaving to be the church among the neighborhoods we live in…by the power of the Holy Spirit!